What goes into creating audio for screen? And what are the main elements of sound design for TV, Film and Game?
Perhaps you're looking to get into sound design for these formats or just wanting to understand more about it. A question we often hear is how to get into game audio or film audio so we thought we'd take some time to break down the different elements of what goes into audio production for screen and give you a good insight into which areas might interest you. Is it music composition? Or could it be sound effect creation for example.
So here's an easy to digest list of what goes into audio for screen and cinematography including a brief look at audio techniques that may be employed to create such audio.
We could break down sound for screen into four main elements which consist of:
Let's explore these main audio elements further.
Ambience is often the sound you don't hear. That is, it becomes part of the scene itself and helps creates the overall environment. All the subtle sounds you don't initially realise but take for granted.
Examples could be clothes ruffling to someones movement, the distant metro train in the background, ambience of the environment be it nature, coffee shop, high traffic streets or lost at sea.
Audio techniques for producing ambient sounds for screen will vary much depending on the environment and feel one is trying to produce.
Sounds will often be layered to create complex sounding environments so it may be as simple as rustling paper or blowing air across a microphone, splashing water around to full recordings of rain and distant tram noise for a moody noir 60s street scene.
Sounds could also include white noise and other textual elements mixed amongst traditional environment recordings to create even more complex or engaging sounds.
An excellent game audio ambience example.
Foley sound is sound that enhances the realism of the picture and are created then added in post production. It can often replace or enhance sounds that were non-existing or inadequate during production.
Examples could be gunshots, car noise, doors opening/closing, chairs noise along the floor when being pulled out to sit on a a cafe and so on.
In fact, for example, the sounds of tyres screeching in a high speed pursuit and the roar of a V8 are almost always not likely to be original sounds that were recorded on scene. Tyres rarely screech when driving round fast corners and not every car has a roaring V8 in it for instance, yet to improve impact and viewer engagement these sounds are added in after production.
In producing audio foley will often involve traditional recordings of such audio layered with other similar sounds to fit the scene.
Audio techniques would be traditional recordings from high quality sources taken back into the studio for enhancement through post production.
Recording Foley in real-time for further alteration and final implementation in post production
Sound FX, SFX or just Effects, though often used interchangeably with Foley sound effects are usually considered as elements such as impact hits, explosions, to more abstract sounds particularly used in sci-fi, horror for sounds that don't exist in the real world such as the screech of an malevolent alien or sound of people bodies morphing into zombies
Techniques used to create such sounds will vary depending on the requirement and are often very creative in the making of such sounds.
These could created through synthesis mixed with traditional recordings of unusual sources.
For example an explosion sound being created by a big mallet being hit on a sheet of metal then in post production having it slowed down, filtered and mixed in with a sub sound and ran through a transient designer to emphasise the initial hit and subsequent tail with the possibility of FX such as reverb also being added.
Sound effects you hear on screen in those circumstances will certainly have been created from various techniques both synthesized and real then enhanced and manipulated considerably to accentuate key characteristics of that sound to maximise the impact of realism on screen.
Check out this quick example of recording whoosh sounds. Alternative methods would include synthesizers, pitch manipulation, some noise and fx.
It's pure creativity and whatever works to obtain the right sound.
Music and individual musical elements are often overlooked yet play a crucial role in producing the overall feel of picture.
It could be as subtle as some high pass strings building tension in the background, the beating of Timpani drums through a high speed on foot pursuit to full orchestration of complex musical arrangements which provide full sound tracks to the entire movie.
Music brings context and emotional engagement to the entire picture. In fact some scenes are remembered more for their audio score than they are for their screen performance.
Here's a really simple but effective demonstration of this.
Audio techniques with music for picture will depend entirely on the scene and picture.
A epic biopic of an historical figure is likely to include minimal but traditional instrumentation for authenticity and relevancy.
An action movie or game will more likely feature fast paced orchestration or even electronically produced compositions.
Whilst horror genres, for example, may rely on minimalist style compositions to build tension and suspense and not take away from the subtleties of the picture atmosphere.
Days gone when you need access to a full orchestra, with the various cinematic sound packs, sample packs and cinematic synth presets available today through a number of high quality synthesizers it is now entirely possible to score a film or game soundtrack completely in the box with samples and software synths.
In fact many producers have done just that created movie or game soundtracks from their home studio on nothing but virtual instruments and sound libraries.
In the age of high quality sound sources along with improved technology means it's more and more accessible for producers and musicians to get themselves into scoring for screen.
Check out some of our Cinematic sounds below or by heading to our shop for high quality source sounds.
The spoken word, the back and forth conversation between on-screen (and sometimes off-screen) characters.
Whilst on the out-set it may seem simple, set mic, check levels, record dialogue, ensure sync in post there's actually a lot of work that goes into making the dialogue fit the scene.
In Interstellar for example - dialogue is often hard to hear, obfuscated by goings on in the scene, it is an attempt to bring realism and believability to scenes as well as drawing your attention in closer to the spoken word forcing the attention of the viewer.
Once recorded dialogue spends much of its time in post production, having levels automated, dynamics compressed or expanded and EQ'd to ensure no nasty peaks of troughs in volume, unless intended. Effects are also added to bolster out the environmental feel and atmosphere or if the recording locations dynamics were inadequate or detrimental.
Understanding the key elements of sound design utilised for various on screen formats will give you better insight into what techniques are used how much of an impact it can have on the production values and help you home in more on what aspects interest you.
Looking for high quality sounds and samples of Cinema and Game composition?
We're lucky to be able to work with top artists and composers who have scored and produced audio for TV and Film including Hollywood blockbusters so be sure to check out their sound libraries below.
You'll find everything from SFX sounds, traditional instrumentation, to darkly cinematic, sci-fi and epic style sound packs in the styles of Hans Zimmer, Clint Mansell, John Williams and more all ready to drop into your film scoring productions.
Start using Hollywood level sounds in your productions today.